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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 09:30 GMT
Scotland's oysters 'under threat'
Oyster farming
Oyster sales traditionally peak around Valentine's Day
Scotland's native oyster population is coming under threat from illegal poaching, it has been claimed.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said the unlawful gathering of oysters meant fewer eggs were being fertilised.

Valentine's Day is a peak time for oyster consumption but SNH has warned that the famous aphrodisiac could soon be off the menu.

Scotland's once prolific oyster fishery has been reduced to a few dwindling and isolated populations on the west coast.

Jane Dodd, marine adviser for SNH, said: "Scotland's native oyster population is now extremely fragile.

"Although it is now unlawful to gather native oysters without permission from the Crown Estate, poaching still continues and has a dramatic impact on already small populations.

"I would urge people to look out for any signs of poaching and report it to the police or SNH, and also ask your fishmonger or restaurant where the oysters came from."

The native oyster (Ostrea edulis) is also known as the flat or common oyster and grows wild in the shallow coastal waters of Scotland.

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